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Food, Nutrition and Recipes


Festive dessert time: How to make a really good trifle

Thursday, 22 December 2016 Written by // Bob Leahy - Publisher Categories // Food, Nutrition and Recipes, Lifestyle, Bob Leahy - Publisher

Bob Leahy shares his mother’s recipe for a dessert that will wow guests, visually and otherwise, the old fashioned way

Festive dessert time: How to make a really good trifle

Bob’s homemade trifle 

Trifle; definition:

1. a thing of little value or importance

2. British: a cold dessert of sponge cake and fruit covered with layers of custard, jelly, and cream.

If ever there were two definitions of the same word that are contrary to each other, trifle is that word. Dessert is seldom unimportant and when trifle is on the menu, it most definitely isn’t.

I don’t think there can be many desserts so simple to create – anyone can do this - with such a high wow factor. Cooking skills can be as limited as heating up water. And it can be as elegant or as down home as you want, although tarting it up like in the picture above – I made this last weekend – is part of the fun.

Today I’m sharing my mother’s way of making trifle. Some elements of this recipe have gone out of style. For example one ingredient is Jell-O. Feel free to omit this if it offends your sensibilities or if you have A-list friends. (A-list friends don’t eat Jell-O.). It also uses canned fruit – and A-list friends don’t eat that either, so substitute whatever you like.  Otherwise the basic recipe is the same, and works well whether you go haute cuisine or hot mess at your dinner parties.

Best to use a glass bowl as you will want your guests to be amazed at your culinary artistry.

Assemble the following in layers, in this order.

1. Cake – purists will likely suggest ladyfingers, but my mother used cut up jelly roll. Cover the bottom of your bowl with one inch slices of it. Then pour some sherry or similar over the cake if you want it to taste boozy. (Warning; Beer doesn’t work well.)  Not too much alcohol but enough to just moisten the cake.

2. Add a layer of fruit. The classic standby in my household was a can of fruit cocktail. But you can do so much better than that. Raspberries, mandarin oranges or pitted cherries work well. One or two cans of each, drained. Or fresh fruit if you prefer.

3. Add a layer of prepared Jell-O mix, any flavour, but best to match it to what fruit you are using. Pour it over the cake and fruit and allow to set.

4. Add a layer of custard. My mother would kill me if I said this, but instant works just as well as the classic Bird’s Custard Mix – and instant means it won’t melt the Jell-O layer when you pour it on. Allow to set.

5. Add a layer of whipped cream that’s been beaten till it’s stiff.

6. Go wild on toppings – I used raspberries and mandarins this week as they looked festive and slightly over the top. Nice additions would be slivered almonds or desiccated coconut.

This whole process doesn’t take long in total, but you have to wait for the Jell-O and custard layers to set. Allow about 15 mins worth of time spread out over an afternoon. 

It's great - and it feeds an army!

There are lots of variations of this recipe online. Below is a simple  - and very English - one.

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